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Fourth Grade Memorial Day, Seventh Grade Valentine’s Day

Columns | February 21, 2017

5/25/07: For the long weekend we’re going to CT! We’re gonna see El and Har and see Shreck 3!

5/26/07: This weekend we were supposed to go to CT, but then Daddy got a really bad stomach flu, so we couldn’t go.  Sigh.

5/28/07: We got to go to CT!  We stayed over night at Julie’s house and played lots of games with El and Har. They are too cute!

 

Memorial Day weekend of fourth grade was a rollercoaster of emotion. It all began with the promise of visiting my aunt and cousins in Connecticut—a promise that filled my young heart with joy and anticipation, only to be ripped from my hands upon my father contracting the aforementioned “really bad” stomach flu. Based on the “sigh” that I conveyed to my journal and the generally disappointing news, I can only imagine that I was utterly inconsolable until two days later when my mother, the clear hero of the weekend, shuttled my sister and me up to Connecticut for a day-long jaunt with our cousins.

 

Re-reading this series of entries was somewhat confusing for me from a logistical standpoint— the timeline of our visit was at odds with the four-year period my cousins had spent in Hong Kong. In 2004, my aunt, uncle, and cousins had moved from their Tribeca apartment, which had been only 15 minutes from our own, to a high rise in Hong Kong for my uncle Gerry’s new job. I vividly remember my parents breaking the news of their move; we had gotten ice cream and were happily walking down the street when my mom asked my sister and me whether it would be okay with us if Julie, Gerry, and our one-year-old cousin Elliott moved to China for a few years. We balked at the idea. Having spent the last year of our lives blissfully enthralled by our new cousin, showing him off to jealous friends when he would accompany our babysitter to pick us up from school, making room for him in our lives and embracing him like another sibling, the thought that he was going to be robbed from us, along with our indisputably most fun aunt and uncle, was inconceivable.  I remember crying and listing reasons why they shouldn’t go as my mother tried to soothe us, explaining that it wasn’t actually our choice. Decisions had been made and travel plans were in place—they had been struggling to find the best way to break the news for months.

 

The whole family purchased webcams to attach to our desktop computers, and the next four years consisted of dinner time video chats as our cousins got ready for pre-school and my uncle prepared for work. Though they returned to the US each summer (hence the Great Memorial Day Debacle), they didn’t move home permanently until 2008, a few months after my cousin Harry, born in 2005, was diagnosed with asthma, and my uncle with lung cancer. Gerry died in February of 2010, when my cousins were four and six years old. This began a period of heightened closeness, support, and tension in my already extremely close, supportive, and tense family.

 

My family’s unwavering support and dedication to each other remained constant throughout the tumult of those six years that emerged in the wake of Gerry’s death. We dropped everything to be there for my aunt and cousins, and the rest of my seventh grade weekends were spent visiting my cousins, foregoing bar mitzvahs to babysit, and finding any and every way possible to alleviate my aunt’s burden.  Both of my parents count their respective siblings as their best friends and their nieces and nephews as their own children, and my generation has followed their lead. My sister and cousins take precedence over anyone or anything else in my life.

 

Family has defined my life in such a poignant way, and I’m extremely grateful for that.  Valentine’s Day will mark exactly seven years since my uncle passed away, and though I won’t get to spend the day with his family like I did last year (when they came to Boston and we spent a delightful Sunday at SkyZone, followed by dinner at Legal Seafood in Copley), I can rest easy knowing the outpouring of love they will receive from every member of our extended family.